Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Odalis Perez was nearly perfect Friday at Wrigley Field as Corey Patterson's bad-hop infield single in the seventh inning was the only blemish in a 10-0 victory.
Location, location, location.
The time-honored real estate axiom also applies to pitching. Perez, a 23-year-old Dominican, faced the minimum 27 batters because of a seventh-inning double play. He became the first Dodger pitcher to toss a one-hitter while facing the minimum since Tim Belcher on July 21, 1990 at Pittsburgh.
Perez (3-1), who threw only 91 pitches, struck out six with an impressive array of two-seam fastballs, knee-buckling curves and off-speed pitches as he retired the first 18 Cubs.
"I had a lot of help from my teammates," Perez said before teammate Chad Kreuter splattered him with a shaving-cream pie in the locker room.
"Odalis is just a ballplayer," Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colburn said. "He's out there trying to get outs. If you went to him after the game and told him he pitched a perfect game, I don't think he'd be aware of it. That's how into the game he is. He had great stuff and great command. But he has been like that all year."
The Cubs surrendered meekly.
"I believe there were two balls that were hit hard. Nothing that he over-powered anybody with," Cubs manager Don Baylor said. "There were a lot of easy outs."
Perez (3-1) received little run support in his first two starts but has won his last three outings. He pitched a five-hitter at Colorado and tossed 82/3 innings of one-run ball against the San Diego Padres.
Perez underwent the same career-threatening "Tommy John surgery" on his pitching elbow as Cubs starter Kerry Wood did in 1999. Perez missed the 2000 season while recovering from the ligament-replacement operation.
"It took me about a year and a half to come back completely. I took my time," Perez said.
Perez was traded to the Dodgers from Atlanta in January as part of the Gary Sheffield-Brian Jordan deal.
He was 7-8 with a 4.91 ERA for Atlanta with 71 strikeouts in 951/3 innings in 24 games (16 starts). He went on the disabled list last July 22 with a laceration on his left hand between his thumb and index finger, which required five stitches.
He suffered the injury when he tried to field a ground ball against Montreal. Perez missed the remainder of the regular season and returned Oct. 5 to the Dominican Republic, where his older half-brother, Tomas, was killed in an automobile accident on Oct. 3.
Unlike Perez, Wood could not locate the strike zone Friday, walking seven Dodgers (one intentional) in 51/3 innings before reliever Carlos Zambrano watched the Dodgers take batting practice against him.
Wood threw 123 pitches, only 62 for strikes. He walked six in his previous start against the Reds when he lasted just 42/3 innings.
The Cubs have not had a no-hitter thrown against them since Sept. 9, 1965, when Sandy Koufax tossed a perfect game at Dodger Stadium. It is the longest stretch of time (36 years) in the majors that a team has not failed to get a hit.
"It's a double whammyhow [Perez] pitched and our lack of hitting," Baylor said.
"It's ridiculous," Wood said. "Anytime you walk seven guys it was a lack of control, lack of concentration. My curveball was nonexistent."
The lopsided victory in the first game of the weekend series was a sharp contrast to last season when the Cubs outscored the Dodgers 27-3 in three games at Wrigley Field.
Patterson led off the seventh by beating out the bad-hop infield single behind second that bounced up high on shortstop Cesar Izturis, whose throw to first wasn't in time.
"It was just a fastball that was middle in," Patterson said. "I put the ball on the ground and I was able to beat it out. I figured I had a chance to leg it out. I don't enjoy getting no-hit."
Chris Stynes then hit into a double play before Sammy Sosa grounded out to end the inning.
Perez called Patterson's infield hit "just part of the game. He should have hit it maybe harder than that [to spoil a perfect game]. If I finished [the follow-through] in the direction that ball was coming, maybe that's my ball and I have the no-hitter now. Cesar gave great effort. The only guy who can beat that play is [Patterson], because he can fly."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times